Tom Ford, Donatella Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino Garavani, Miuccia Prada and Jean Paul Gaultier. Despite being household titles to those cultured in modern design, what do all of these names have in common? The answer is simple, they all belong to a population of influential names in the fashion industry and tailor to exceedingly fortuitous and efficacious brands.
These are individuals who have utilized their zeal and ingenuity to contrive a self-expression of unparalleled magnitude, as well as willfully engineering social, cultural, and political values into their work.
While we acknowledge fashion as a noteworthy countenance of human creativity, we often fail to perceive its substantive boundaries as more than merely prolific. Rather, as a society we don’t recognize the capability and already predominant leverage on the political and cultural sphere that is this all-encompassing industry.
If we examine seasons of this commercial enterprise’s past, there seems to be the general correlation of color scheme depending on fall or spring interval contrasted with the designer’s individual artistic vision. For example, the iconic Louis Vuitton Fall 1998 show where a revival of neutral tones intermixed with unfitted and formative silhouettes sparked a new age in fashion, thus recultivating the perception of a relatively simplistic design. And, the John Galliano’s spring 2003 obeisance to London club culture with overblown and imaginative feature of color and contour themes demonstrated a reprisal in the abstract.
But going beyond the mere aesthetic influence of these brands, we are able to analyze the actual authority that these fashion influencers possess. Most recognizably this concept of self-expression has an incomparable impact on the aspect of cultural perception. It houses the ability to commandeer the cultural values of society, emphasizing a significance on the anterior traditions of the minority, and integrating a progression in accepting diversity.
Additionally, conceptual fashion annexes the boundaries of the global economy in the sense it bolsters demand for a trend, thus controlling a considerable monetary facet of the worldwide market.
And while this art form has the ability to insight positive change such as the emancipation from gendered and misogynistic morale, its unwavering power structure also has the capability to be exploited. A more recent example of this misuse is when Marc Jacobs had white models walk in dread locks for his 2017 spring collection last September. The internet was severely offended by this blatant offense of cultural appropriation, but Jacobs did not see anything wrong with the fact that he had abducted a traditionally black hairstyle in an exertion of self-interest. He claimed that he was just exercising his freedom of self-expression and ‘did not see color’ but what is so controversial about this issue is the fact that when a black individual encompasses this hairstyle they are ridiculed, oppressed, and sometimes fired from the workplace, but when Jacobs implements this hairstyle on white models it is considered high fashion.
This serves as an example of a desecration of platform, damaging a social tier that encompasses so much more than purely aesthetics. And while there is still beneficial impact resulting from the confines of this industry, the entirety of the subject houses a power that has no comparison given its impoundment of art, culture, society, politics, and economics.
As Yorba Linda High School junior Brenda Perez states, “the delicate balance between art and culture drive social progression, and if we continue to disrupt that cycle with the appropriation of whole ethnicities, we are only transcending our morale as an eclectic body of eccentricity.”